A tale of two rioters

August 30, 2011 10:21 am

belfastriot.jpgBy Steve Hilditch

Picture the scene. Two 15 year olds caught up in the riots. Both enter a building and steal something, no violence involved but it’s clearly burglary. Both are caught by CCTV, arrested, charged, and brought before the Courts. Both are sentenced to 6 months in jail. The justice system has worked.

But there is one difference between the two children. One lives with his parents in a small terraced house that they bought 25 years ago and have brought their three children up in. No-one in the family has been in trouble before. The other lives with his parents in a small terraced house that they got from the council 25 years ago and have brought their three children up in. No-one in the family has been in trouble before.

What does justice have to say about this? Both have been dealt with, punished seriously for their crime. Both will have the blight of a criminal conviction and prison sentence hanging over them for years to come. But it’s fair treatment.

The first boy, when released, will return to his family in their family home and try to take up his life. There is some security and stability as he rebuilds. It’s hard but possible.

The second boy, when released, finds that his family has been evicted by the council from the family home because of his crime. They were declared intentionally homeless, so they won’t be rehoused. They have taken two private rented rooms in a shared house at a cost of nearly twice the council rent they were paying. Dad thinks he can’t afford to keep working. The youngest child is bedwetting, a result of the trauma of eviction say the medics. Mum is suffering from depression and is struggling to keep her job. They are not able to take the oldest boy in. He drifts off to stay on someone’s sofa. There is no security and stability from which to build. It’s very hard and it feels almost impossible.

What does justice have to say about this? None of this is fanciful; anyone involved in housing knows that this story reflects the reality.

There is no doubt that the mood is about retribution. Polls show that more people want tenants evicted than don’t. But neighbours who are home owners or private tenants probably don’t want anyone convicted of a serious crime living next to them either. And the determination of some councils to evict, and the government’s determination to make it easier for them, will not apply more generally to your common or garden murderer or rapist or burglar.

It may allow politicians to sound tough. It may be what people want. But it isn’t justice. It’s double punishment, it’s guilt by association, it’s discrimination on the grounds of tenure, pure and simple.

Labour, nationally and locally, should have nothing to do with it.

Steve blogs at Red Brick

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

    It shouldn’t cost so much to be a candidate

    I love the Labour party. I enjoy canvassing, I pay my subs, go to the various fundraising dinners and vote in National Executive Committee (NEC) elections. I, like many, hate the constant barrage of ‘please donate’ emails and fear the dreaded fundraising call. And if I feel like that, imagine the dread felt by a candidate when they receive such a call. Don’t believe that happens? Hard to believe as it is, on more than one occasion now I have […]

    Read more →
  • News Jim Murphy resumes “100 streets” referendum tour after nationalist abuse

    Jim Murphy resumes “100 streets” referendum tour after nationalist abuse

    Jim Murphy is resuming his soapbox street meetings tour of Scotland tomorrow, after suspending it last week in the face of increasing co-ordinated abuse by supporters of independence. These protests at Murphy’s open-air meetings came to the attention of the media (and the police) when the Shadow Defence Secretary was hit with eggs last week. In a blog for the Spectator this weekend, Murphy explains how the organised groups go beyond the “normal cut and thrust” of politics that the meetings […]

    Read more →
  • News 16-24 year olds more likely to vote Labour, poll finds

    16-24 year olds more likely to vote Labour, poll finds

    A voting attitudes poll has found that young people, between the ages of 16-24, are more likely to vote Labour in the next general election. The poll, carried out by Survation between 21st-26th August for Sky News, saw 1,003 young people asked about their attitudes towards politics and their voting intentions in the next general election. Of those who said they would be voting, 35% said that they would vote Labour, while only 12% opted for the Conservatives and a mere […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Scotland When it comes to the referendum, let’s remember “in unity is strength”

    When it comes to the referendum, let’s remember “in unity is strength”

    In the coming days UK Labour leader Ed Miliband will be here in Scotland – making the case for shared solidarity across these islands.He’ll arrive in the wake of a difficult summer for David Cameron and a growing sense that we can secure a Labour Government in next May’s general election.This view that Labour can win in 9 months time finds no place in the Nationalists’ narrative. They had hoped to be able to tell voters that Tory victory was […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband: I want my Cabinet to have 50% women

    Miliband: I want my Cabinet to have 50% women

    Ed Miliband has reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring his Cabinet would have 50% women – although stopped short of making it a promise, saying he wants to “let my actions speak for themselves”. In an interview with woman’s magazine Red, Miliband said he’s proud that women’s representation in the Shadow Cabinet has improved since he became leader, and that he would like to see women make up half of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP): What has changed under his leadership […]

    Read more →